I became deeply aware of the call to become a disciple-making man years after I was converted. That “second call” occurred on February 1st, 1988, and I have been trying to learn to walk in this disciple-making path since that day. When I first surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus in 1968 it was with the intention of never turning back, but there was so much I did not know. What do I wish that someone could have helped me to understand?
First and foremost, I wish that someone would have helped me understand the difference between participating in the ecclesia of God and in the organized Church. By that I mean the difference between sharing my life with those who imply they are the Lord’s by their participation in the institutional forms of church life, and those in whom the Spirit of Jesus is truly living and reigning. All the joy of my walk has come from my fellowship with the latter group of men and women. The ecclesia of God is not invisible.
The second thing I wish is that someone would have helped me focus day by day on the truth that is revealed in the Holy Scriptures alone. Somehow, largely unconsciously, I became convinced that I had to read other books, study other peoples’ ideas about the scriptures, and implement someone else’s idea about how to live the life of Christ Jesus. It is embarrassing to admit how many years I tried to follow Jesus without giving his written word priority in my daily life. Even more, how far from an intimate walk with him I was in those days—even after I began to read the Holy Scriptures day by day. I was focused on reading them, not meeting the Lord Jesus as I read. A true discipling friend would have spotted that. It is possible to be very religious and not a disciple of Jesus.
The third thing I wish is that someone would have helped me understand the nature of a truly Christian marriage. All the examples in my life suggested that the work of serving the organized Church took priority over the responsibility I had—given by the Lord!—of caring for and discipling my wife, and my children when they came along. The implicit message I had received was, “the ordained ministry of the Church comes first, the family comes second.” I now know what a damnable lie that is, but for many years I did not. The institutional Church, as I experienced it, brooked no rivals. It did not teach me that my marriage and family were central to my ministry rather than an afterthought. I believed I had a ministry and a marriage, but my marriage was in truth part of my divine calling to ministry.
My fourth desire would be that someone would have come alongside me when our children were young enough to still be shaped in the ways of the Lord. Someone who could have lovingly helped us see that our children were being discipled by the culture more than by their parents and faith community.
When I look at my own list of things I wish I had known sooner, one thing stands out above all else. I wish I had known a disciple-making elder when I was younger. I knew true believers, but I did not know a discipling Christian.
Till the day I die, this is what I want to help other believers to be: Disciple-makers.